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College football: Syracuse chooses wrong options

ARTICLE OPTIONS
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ATLANTA — Extra practice time devoted to stopping Georgia Tech’s spread-option offense didn’t change the fact Syracuse had never faced the attack in a game.

That disadvantage proved too difficult to overcome.

Syracuse was hurt by three turnovers and a blocked punt and Georgia Tech was dominant on the ground in its 56-0 victory over the Orange on Saturday.

“We’ve never played an option team before,” said Syracuse safety Durell Eskridge. “Georgia Tech has been running the option forever. They’ve got their scheme down pat.”

Zach Laskey had three of Georgia Tech’s seven rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Vad Lee added two rushing touchdowns and threw a scoring pass.

For Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), it was a sobering let-down one week after a 24-10 win at North Carolina State.

Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said he “got outcoached today” by Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson even though the Orange spent extra time in the summer and on Sundays preparing for the offense.

“Very disappointed in myself,” Shafer said. “We thought we had a good plan, but we got our butts kicked today and that starts with me.”

Georgia Tech (4-3, 3-2) averaged 5.9 yards per carry.

The Yellow Jackets ended a three-game losing streak by compiling 482 total yards, including 394 yards rushing. The Yellow Jackets had 67 rushing attempts and threw only five passes, including Lee’s 46-yard touchdown pass to Darren Waller early in the second half.

“They did everything we thought they were going to do,” Eskridge said. “They executed their cutbacks, and we had a hard time getting off blocks.”

The blowout victory easily surpassed Georgia Tech’s 49-10 win over Duke on Nov. 14, 2009 as the Yellow Jackets’ biggest margin of victory in an Atlantic Coast Conference game.

The Yellow Jackets had only eight third-down plays — none in the first quarter.

“As long as you’re churning out seven, eight yards a pop, you get behind schedule throwing it,” Johnson said, adding that by keeping the ball on the ground “you kind of run them into oblivion.”

Syracuse cornerback Ri’Shard Anderson intercepted a pass thrown by receiver DeAndre Smelter on a trick play to end Georgia Tech’s first possession. After that, the Yellow Jackets had few mistakes, including no penalties.

The Yellow Jackets took advantage of a blocked punt and three Syracuse turnovers for the runaway win.

Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy had an interception and fumble recovery to lead Georgia Tech’s defense.

Syracuse, which averaged 342.5 yards rushing in its first two ACC games, was held to 75 yards on 26 carries and 208 total yards. Jerome Smith had 11 carries for 43 yards.

“They did a multitude of things,” said Shafer of Georgia Tech’s defense. “But at the end of the day, when you’re down by 14 and 21 points early ... you can’t rush the whole game.”

Orange starting quarterback Terrel Hunt completed 7 of 14 passes for 68 yards with an interception. Drew Allen took over in the second half and completed 6 of 15 passes for 65 yards with an interception.

“We shot ourselves in the foot, hurt ourselves a lot,” Hunt said. “We could have done better.

“It’s disappointing. We’re going to flush this down the toilet and go back to work.”

Georgia Tech backup quarterback Justin Thomas ran for 95 yards, including a 50-yard scoring run, and Synjyn Days had a 4-yard touchdown run. Laskey had 13 carries for 75 yards and scored on runs of 6, 3 and 1 yards.

A procession of mistakes left the Orange with a deficit that continued to grow during the first half.

Georgia Tech’s Chris Milton blocked Riley Dixon’s first-quarter punt, setting up a quick 24-yard drive capped by Days’ scoring run. On Syracuse’s next possession, Nealy’s interception set up a 71-yard touchdown drive.

Syracuse had a chance to stop Georgia Tech on a third-down incompletion midway through the second quarter, but defensive end Micah Robinson was flagged for a blow to Lee’s head. Two plays after the personal foul penalty, Lee was untouched on a 3-yard run for a 21-0 lead.

Syracuse drew nine penalties for 91 yards.

Late in the half, Syracuse’s second turnover set up Georgia Tech’s fourth touchdown. Backup center Jason Emerich’s shotgun snap was high over Hunt’s head. Hunt tried to fall on the fumble but lost the ball when tackled by Jemea Thomas, who was credited with a forced fumble. Nealy recovered the ball at the Syracuse 7, setting up Lee’s second touchdown run.

Emerich entered the game after starting center Macky MacPherson left with a reported upper body injury in the first quarter. MacPherson returned in the second half.

Syracuse defensive tackle John Raymon was taken off the field late in the first half with an apparent right knee injury.

“He had a tough injury,” Shafer said. “We are going to find out exactly what it is. We have our suspicions of what it is. It’s not a good thing, obviously.”




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